Accessible Cycle – the wheel of change for persons with lower-limb impairment

The wheel of change moves on, and those who were down go up and those who were up go down ~ Jawarhal Nehru (first Prime Minister of India)

Allegorical references and literal manifestations of a wheel impact different people in different ways, depending on perspective. A wheel beckons revolutions, it inspires change, breathes life, rekindles flickering hope and for many it gives independence; especially for those that have been marginalized and disenfranchised – Vishal is one of those individuals.

With a residence 6 floors atop a nondescript building in Lyari, Vishal’s journey to get around the city of Karachi began in a challenging manner, every day. His mode of transport was a rickety cycle that consumed significant effort and had more breakdowns than London has rain. The need for him was a cycle that was affordable – so his minimum wage could afford it; reliable – so the better part of his day was not spent fixing it; sturdy – so that it could navigate the hazardous roads that is urban Karachi; and ergonomic – so that his already pummeled body got some relief. That Vishal considers himself debonair, meant that the added virtue of an aesthetically pleasing mode of transport would go a long way in sealing his reputation as the neighborhood heart-throb.

So NOWPDP set about, trying to make a significant difference in Vishal’s life by looking for a solution. A solution that combined practicality with panache; and allowed opportunities to open up for Vishal that a lack of accessibility never allowed. After scouring Pakistan for many months, our team was able to rally designs that promised progress and would result in a cycle that would look tasteful and perform sturdily. Those that answered our rallying cry were students and professionals; urban dwellers and rural representatives; progressives and conservatives; men and women; an assortment of entries that we hoped was a representation of Pakistan and its passion for social change. To judge the robustness of the cycle designs, NOWPDP used its pulpit for sounding the gong that invited expertise from around the world. Accessibility experts from MIT to Stanford; from automobile companies to architectural firms; from Pittsburgh to London to Mexico to Karachi were gracious enough and responded to our call resulting in a diverse, seasoned, critical and curious jury. Fast forward a few months, and the unique cocktail of designers and jury resulted in a solution that we all felt we could hang our hat on and one that Vishal felt confident he could flaunt in the city. Thus we successfully completed the first step in a long journey, a journey which we hope concludes with thousands of these cycles on the streets and a desire that future generations continue to come up with indigenous solutions that cement resilience and societal conscience as cornerstones.

As we look to the future, we hope that those that are limited by faults of society find navigation; those that challenge sympathy, find empathetic representation; those that seek wheels, find access to wings. But most importantly, we hope that others like our friend Vishal beckon change at an individual, institutional and societal level.

The cycle in question is a tricycle, since Vishal is a **paraplegic**; due to polio and has no use of his lower limbs, thus relying on his arms and upper body.

**The appropriate term to use for someone in Vishal’s situation is “physically impaired, with lower limb impairment”**


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